It was a wrap last week for John Waters' "Hairspray," filmed in part at Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom, South Whitehall Township, last month. Filming for the feature movie was completed Thursday in Baltimore, Md., where the 1962 teen musical comedy takes place.
"It's going great," said Waters during a break on Day 35 for "Hairspray." On this day, filming was taking place at Flite Three studios in Baltimore. "It's really been fun this week to do a scene where there's actually three people in it, instead of . . . '800 people have to run this way.' "
For the Dorney Park scenes, which depict the Corny Collins TV show on location at an amusement park called Tilted Acres, 100 to 200 extras were used in many of the scenes. The Dorney filming marked the first time Waters has filmed outside of Baltimore. "Hairspray" is about teen celebrities, their stage moms and conflicts of the era.
In one of Flite Three's huge production studios, the apartment of Wilbur and Edna Turnblad (actor/comedian Jerry Stiller and Divine) and their daughter Tracy (Ricki Lake), was created. "This is my favorite part," said Waters, pointing to a stair railing and blacked- out area. "It's supposed to be a walk-up."
The fully enclosed apartment resembled a life-size dollhouse decorated by someone with impossibly tacky taste. Knotty-pine paneled walls displayed all sorts of knick-knacks. There were two rooms, a living room and a kitchen, with plaid curtains, linoleum floors, a black and white TV, a giant fake bellows planter and 1962 Life magazines scattered about.
"Vince Peranio designed the set. He knows what I like," Waters said. "He showed me pictures and we talked about it."
"All these pieces come out. The walls move back," said Waters. "And that's out back. You can see through the window." Clothing is hanging on a wash line. Through another window, there's a painted sky.
The sets were built at Peranio's set shop and trucked to Flite Three. Peranio has been art director for all of Waters' films. Van Smith, the costumer, has been with Waters for many years.
Interior scenes for the Corny Collins TV dance show were also done at Flite Three. This past week, interiors for the home of Franklin and Velma Von Tussle (Sonny Bono, the pop singer who teamed with Cher and is running for mayor of Palm Springs, and Debbie Harry, formerly of the rock group Blondie) and their daughter Amber (Colleen Fitzpatrick) were filmed. Also featured in the film will be singer/ actress Ruth Brown as Motormouth Maybelle. Cameo appearances are expected by Pia Zadora and Ric Ocasek, leader singer for the rock group The Cars, as beatniks.
"It's gettin' there," said Waters, who has been declining interviews about "Hairspray." "We want to wait until it's done. We want to hold off on the publicity."
An item in a recent issue of Newsweek magazine headlined "Hairspray" as "A movie with holding power." A photo taken by the movie's publicity photographer Henny Garfunkel showed Bono and Harry. She wore a huge bouffant wig. A Baltimore Sun newspaper article, which went out on national wire services and mentioned the Allentown filming, described Harry's type of hairdo as "Highlandtown beehive."
Waters' style of film-making and his view of Americana were recently analyzed in The Village Voice film section. Critic J. Hoberman wrote "a new obsession with the strangeness - even the Otherness - of the American heartland characterizes a remarkable number of recent movies."
Directors and their movies referred to included David Lynch, "Blue Velvet"; Ethan and Joel Coen, "Raising Arizona"; Jonathan Demme, "Something Wild"; David Byrne, "True Stories," and Susan Seidelman, "Making Mr. Right."
In their films, these directors celebrated "the outer edge of normal." Other articles in the Voice section told more of the story. "What's Stranger Than Paradise Or, How We Learned to Love the 'Burbs" sketched the pop culture history of American kitsch. "Stupid People Tricks: Making Fun of the Folks at Home" described the David Letterman TV show. "Kitsch 'n' Tell: The Filmmakers' Real Scoop on American Fake" presented interviews with several filmmakers.
The trend was alternately called Kitschy Kool, Jetsonism, the Hayseed Renaissance and Middle American Grotesque. Waters would have none of it. "I gave away every pink flamingo I had 10 years ago," said the director of "Pink Flamingos."
"I think it's a dead movement," said Waters, back on the Baltimore set, about the theme of the Voice articles. "I think people are getting a better sense of humor. I think a lot of films are being made about this kind of subject matter. It's certainly not influencing me 'cause I've always done that same kind of humor."
A January opening is still planned for "Hairspray," which is being released nationally by New Line Cinema. The premiere is set for Baltimore. It's uncertain whether a special showing is planned locally, although that's a possibility.
A rough edit of the movie has begun, Waters said. Final mixing of the sound track is to take place in Los Angeles. The wrap party was held Friday.
"I don't know what I'm going to do next," said Waters. "I have another book which I'm supposed to write, so I have to do it. I can't really think beyond Thursday. Then, I go away for a week."
"It's on schedule, which is amazing for a feature film," said Pat Moran, "Hairspray" production manager. "We're very excited. This crew is as good as any crew in Los Angeles or better. We feel we could make another movie in a year. We feel that good at this point."
ROEBUCK'S EDGE: It was about four years ago following a Civic Little Theatre production at the Nineteenth Street Theatre, Allentown, that Dan Roebuck told some friends and acquaintances lingering in the aisles after the show that he was moving to California to find fame and fortune in the movies. There were skeptics then.
Now Roebuck is back - in a cinematic sense - in that very same Nineteenth Street Theatre, only this time he's up there on the silver screen, as a star of the critically acclaimed "River's Edge." Don't miss this emotionally chilling and important movie.
And don't scoff the next time somebody tells you his dreams.
It's a wrap for 'Hairspray'
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